Do Hollywood Women Spoil Their Men?
by Faith Baldwin
Photoplay magazine, May 1939
When is spoiling not spoiling? When is surrender wise?
This famous novelist gives you a Hollywood lesson in love
When the editor of Photoplay asked me whether or not I would be interested in writing an article under this heading, I screamed, I hollered, I hot the ceiling. And I grabbed my trusty typewriter and wrote a letter to Photoplay in which I demanded to know what in the world was meant by “spoiling”? You see, spoiling is a pretty general term and what might mean spoiling to you might not mean spoiling to me.
I suppose it’s spoiling when you encourage selfishness and certainly selfishness is encouraged by too much pampering, too much sheltering from realities…that goes for men, women and children; to be ideal, any human relationship should approximate a fifty-fifty, give-and-take basis.
Many wives are afraid they will spoil their men if they yield to them on various points. But sometimes surrender is wise. And some men spoil a lot easier than others. The rule here seems to be, how much can you spoil your man and not spoil your marriage?
Hollywood is full of the world’s most alluring women; it is an enormous factory, working day and night, to create allure. It has to…because every week eighty million people pay money at the box office to view that allure and to enjoy it vicariously.
To be born beautiful is very nice indeed. To be born attractive and made beautiful is something else again. Charm, beauty, allure—these will all interest and attract a man, but they can’t hold him. Girls who look in the mirror and pray that they may become beautiful overnight should realize that. I’ve seen very plain women hold men much longer than beautiful women, and in greater happiness. Not even in legendary Hollywood do beautiful women always hold their men. Look at the divorce records. Nor, for that matter, do handsome men hold their women.
In looking over the recent examples of how Hollywood women may “spoil” their men, I come upon several which seem to me just common sense, not spoiling. For instance, I read somewhere that Joan Blondell threw away a new hat because her husband, Dick Powell, said he didn’t like it. Spoiling? I don’t think so. After all, he had to look at the hat. If Mama comes home in a lovely crazy creation which has cost her a pretty penny and Papa takes one look at it and either weeps or laughs or groans…well, out goes the hat. And a very sensible gesture, too. Nothing seems to irritate a man more than a hat which affronts him—on his wife. It irritates the wife, of course, when said husband doesn’t mind the same hat on another woman. But she isn’t his wife, so that’s that.
My mother used to romp in with the latest thing in hats and my father used to order them off her red head, pronto. He would say, “You look like a drum major.” He would say, “You look like Bertha, the Brewer’s Bride.” He would say, “You look like the wastebasket, plus contents.”
His contention was that a hat should frame a face; that the face should be the main object of the eyes and not the hat; that a hat should be merely a becoming adjunct. If he were alive today he would probably go into s strait jacket after viewing the hats that now appear upon public streets.
Young girls and very pretty girls, smart women who are so plain that nothing is becoming but sheer crazy chic, can get away with the mad, mad hats. Since Mrs. Powell is both young and pretty, she can get away with them, too—except at home. But if Mr. Powell doesn’t like one of her hats, she isn’t spoiling him by throwing it away. She’s being sensible.
So, if your boyfriend doesn’t like your hat, do something about it. The gesture will flatter him; it won’t spoil him, and incidentally, it may improve your own appearance.
Adrian, famous Hollywood costume designer and fiancé of Janet Gaynor, has designed an entire new wardrobe and dress personality for her, or so I hear tell. I don’t think she is spoiling him by conforming. I think she is being wise. In the first place, Janet Gaynor is lovely enough to have a new personality if she wants one.
Anyway, she’s probably tired of being wistful and little-girlish. Hurrah for her, and for Adrian, and for their romance!
Suppose you’re a brunette and you decide to become a blonde. Suppose you become a blonde and all your best friends (including the cats) tell you you are too, too ravishing. Suppose your husband or your fiancé takes one look and advises you that he fell in love with a brunette, that you looked much better to him as nature has intended. What would you do? Go on being a blonde because you didn’t want to spoil him by surrender?
Paulette Goddard had that happen to her. She went blonde and Mr. Charles Chaplin went critical. She returned to her natural coloring. And I agree with Chaplin. I like her better that way.
Well, perhaps hats and hair-dos and makeup and blonde vs. brunette aren’t very important problems, but here’s a more serious one.
Take that most discussed blonde little number, Carole Lombard. Caroe free-lances; she draws approximately one hundred thousand dollars per picture, plus profit percentage. Last year her income totaled nearly half a million and, in addition, Hollywood’s most box-office screen lover is also number one man in her life. Marriage is around the corner and these two have been keeping company, as we say up here in New England, for some time.
How does she hold Mr. Gable’s affection? By her beauty? Nonsense! There are women lovelier or as lovely right under his eyes. By her acting ability? When did that ever hold a man—off stage? By her earning capacity? Thumbs down on that—his own is stupendous.
Back in 1934, this little blonde star was celebrating a recent success at a party. She loved parties—the bigger, the better and the more fun. And there she met the gentleman aforesaid—not for the first time. They had co-starred in a picture, but that was business. This was social, and pleasure.
He just happened to be there. He doesn’t go much for parties. He likes other things better.
But there she was, independent, witty, most amusing, lovely. And there he was. And the romance began.
But the future looked dark for that romance. She was glamour epitomized. She liked dancing, night clubs, crazy entertaining ideas. To her, mornings were made for sleep, afternoons for thinking up something to do in the evenings.
But he gets up at five. He is off to shoot ducks, to ride horseback.
A fine how-do-you-do.
But now it’s five years later. Our little star is lovelier than ever. Getting to bed at a reasonable hour hasn’t hurt her and getting up to slaughter innocent ducks hasn’t hurt her, either. She’s learned to shoot; she’s learned to pull her weight in a figurative boat; she’s learned to take it—to rough it—and she likes it. Or so I assume.
Why wouldn’t she? She’s always been a good sport and this right-about-face of hers is just another step in good sportsmanship.
The gentleman in question still keeps out of night clubs and his favorite companion is a girl who at one time didn’t know a pheasant from a partridge. They have built a sturdy companionship foundation to romance and perhaps they’ll be married before you read this.
She’s remade her life—she who can have men forming a line on the right to ask for a date, a glamorous woman whose career is still on the upbeat. She’s become a crack tennis player and skeet shooter.
She can handle a shotgun as easily as a lipstick. She can pile out of bed at five in the morning, yank on boots, wool riding pants, a lumber jacket—not the most becoming of costumes—drink some scalding coffee and start out in a station wagon for a duck blind, over a mile of bumpy road into some Godforsaken wilderness where she’ll kneel in mud and water, waiting and motionless, until the wedge-shaped flight of birds passes overhead against the morning sky. And when it’s time to eat, it won’t be crepes Suzette!
Is that spoiling her man?
I don’t think so. If she disliked hunting or sports in general more than she loved him, she had her choice—she could stay at home. If she was bored with skeet shooting, she could have found another man who was bored with it, too, and easily.
And I have no doubt that he makes concessions and goes her way now and then…but perhaps she has come to prefer his way to her own.
There are a few other little straws which point the way the wind blows. Simple things.
Claudette Colbert, for instance, used bright nail polish. Then she married. Her husband didn’t like it. So she doesn’t use it now.
(Aside…thank you, Doctor. I’ve always hated it myself.)
Jimmy Cagney can’t stand hotels, so they say. (Maybe a hangover from his touring days. I wouldn’t know. The only time I met him he was very comfortably situated in a hotel in New York, but maybe he didn’t like it, at that.) However, recently the Cagneys built a new house and had to move from the old one before it was finished. It might have been easier for Mrs. Cagney if they had put up at a hotel for a few days. But because Jimmy hated hotels, she didn’t. She moved into the quarters over the new garage instead.
You wouldn’t think that Margaret Sullavan would give in to masculine whims, would you? Yet I read somewhere that her husband usually dines with a newspaper in front of him—in public, too. But she doesn’t appear to object. There’s much more to lose by arguing the point than you stand to gain.
Personally, I’d object. I think reading newspapers at the table—well, I’ll except breakfast—is a little on the rude side. But it’s Mrs. Hayward’s problem, not mine.
I heard tell the other day that one of the very popular girls in Hollywood won’t keep a date if the gentleman is late.
So the boys were accused of spoiling her. That’s very silly! I think the young lady has taken an elegant stand.
You see there are more girls than men in Hollywood. And perhaps, therefore, some of the boys are spoiled—in the wrong way. They are at a premium as escorts, aren’t they? So, maybe they thought they could get away with being late.
So it isn’t spoiling the girl, if she locks the door when the bell doesn’t ring at the right time. It’s teaching the lads good manners.
I would go on record as saying that people who love each other very much and who concede something to each other’s tastes and personal likes and dislikes aren’t spoiling each other—they are building companionship.
Spoiling is something else again. Spoiling is building selfishness—in the man you spoil and in yourself, too—because sometimes it is easier to give in when you know you shouldn’t and sometimes you like to feel a martyr, and sometimes you get a kick out of being a “good” wife.
That’s spoiling a man, letting him have his way in things which are bad for him, bad for you, bad for your romance or your marriage. But to consider his tatstes, his dislikes and likes isn’t spoiling at all.
As the same consideration of him—and get it—and you have the makings of a happy marriage.
Suppose he likes to—well, let’s say bowl—and you like to go to the movies. All right, compromise. Bowl with him or, if it’s s stag affair, let him go alone. Then, turnabout being fair play, see to it that he takes you to the movies as often as he goes bowling—or whatever it is he does.
In other words, spoil each other and you can’t call it spoiling!
As for the Hollywood women who “spoil” their men. Maybe they do—I wouldn’t know. I just know that they seem to have them.